Chayei Sara / The Life of Sarah
HafTorah 1 Kings 1:1-31
Brit Chadasha 1 Corinthians 15:50-57
The Life of Sarah as a title seems a little bit odd for this parsha since it begins with the recording of her death at the age of 127 years. After Abraham grieves for Sarah, he approaches the sons of Heth in nearby Hebron to negotiate the purchase of a field and a cave in Machpelah, where he wishes to bury her. This transaction represents the entire first chapter of this parsha. Why is this so important?
When the Israelites came out of Egypt and entered Eretz Canaan and came to the territory of the Hittites – the “sons of Heth” - there was a legitimate claim to that land. Not only had God promised it to Abraham forever, but it had been legally purchased at an agreed-upon price in the presence of many witnesses by Abraham, thus belonging to his descendants. This also firmly establishes the rightful Jewish claim to that city, then and now, despite the turmoil that has surrounded Hebron over the last century, and despite the argument of other world leaders that it belongs to another group of people. Hebron, approximately nineteen miles south of Jerusalem, is now a Palestinian city.
Hebron was formerly known as Kiryat Arba “City of the Four” and is the second oldest inhabited city on earth. Excavations there revealed settlements dating to back 3,400 BC. The name Hebron is from the Hebrew word chaver from the root ḥbr, meaning to ‘unite, alliance, friend or companion’. Could this be because Abraham was called “the friend of God”- 2 Chronicles 20:7 and James 2:23. Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, Ruth, and Jesse are buried there. David was also anointed there, and Hebron is considered the second holiest site of Israel.
But possibly, the main part of this parsha is chapter 24, ‘A Bride for Isaac’. Abraham sends Eliezer, but first makes him swear the most solemn of oaths; ‘So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; 4 but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” Genesis 24:2-4.
Both the Canaanites and the Chaldeans worshiped false deities and Isaac was not to be re-introduced into any pagan society. Eliezer questions Abraham, wondering if the woman would even be willing to follow him back? He asks Abraham if he should seek a wife ‘back to the land which he came from’. Abraham answers: Genesis 24:6-9 ‘But Abraham said to him, “Beware that you do not take my son back there. 7 The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my family, and who spoke to me and swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8 And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and swore to him concerning this matter.’
Eliezer comes to the city of Nahor and upon reaching a well, ‘makes the ten camels kneel by the well’ at the time of the drawing of water. He prays to God with the title of ‘Adonai of my master Abraham’ and asks for a sign, success and kindness towards Abraham in finding a wife for his son, Isaac. Genesis 24:10-14.
Chayei Sarah ends with a brief statement regarding the marriage of Abraham to Keturah (which some say was Hagar), his death, burial and the families of Ishmael and Isaac.
In Genesis 24:57-58 after Eleazer’s encounter with Rebekah at the well, she brought him to her father’s house where they discussed the proposed marriage between them. The following morning they called her and said, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.” Rebekah gave her consent – her “I do.” The Hebrew name for willing consent is daat. The same occurs to us in our spiritual walk with Yeshua. We are never forced to say ‘I do’ to Yeshua/ the Living Word, for God created us all with a free choice and a free will.
There are two verses in the Brit Chadasha which should give clarity to our behavior: 2 Corinthians 11:2 states ‘For I am jealous for you with godly jealously. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to the Messiah.” Betrothed can mean engaged, united, and given to. Rabbi Shau’l continues in Romans 7:4: “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Messiah, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.”
Having given a get, we are redeemed to marry; God is allowing us that privilege if we give our willing consent, our daat, consenting to His ways and Covenant. Our redemption is given to us by God. The Word became flesh and redeems us as we see in John 1:1-5 ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.’ And John 1:14 ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’
Redemption is through the Living Word, the Living Torah:
Isaiah 47:4 ‘Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, The Holy One of Israel.’
Psalm 19:14 ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.’
1 Chronicles 17:21 ‘And what one nation in the earth is like Your people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make You a name by great and terrible things, in driving out nations from before Your people, whom You redeemed out of Egypt?’
Nehemiah 1:10 ‘They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.’
Psalm 78:35 ‘And they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer.’
Psalm 103:4 ‘Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion…’
Colossians 1:13-14 ‘For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.’
Luke 1:68 ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people…’
Romans 3:23-24 ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Yeshua HaMashiach…’
Would we be free to be betrothed to the King if we negate the Living Word? Would we be pure as spoken by Rabbi Shau’l in 2Corinthians 11:2? If we disallow the Torah, and cling to pagan ways, which are ways other than God’s and were the ways that Abraham was so against for his son’s bride – do we fit the qualifications of the redeemed bride?
Chayei Sarah / Life of Sarah
1 Kings 1:1-31
1 Corinthians 15:50-57
Looking for a sign…
Chayei Sarah begins with Sarah’s death and Abraham buying the cave from the Hittites for a burial site for Sarah. Genesis 23:17-20 ‘So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded 18 to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. 19 And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave that is in it were deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as property for a burial place.’
In Genesis 24, Abraham instructs his servant to find a bride for his son, Isaac. Genesis 24:1-4 ‘Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; 4 but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
This practice of putting one’s hand under the thigh was also done in Genesis 47:29 ‘When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt…’
In both of these instances, thigh is rendered as ‘loin’, the covenantal part of the binding agreement between Elohim and Abraham, and thus the oath was really by the holy covenant between Abraham and God, of which circumcision was the symbol.
In Genesis 24:14, the servant asks for a sign, ‘ Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’—let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.” Genesis 24:15-21 is the exact sign that the servant was asking for. The servant was asking for a sign for his success for ‘kindness for his master Abraham’, Genesis 24:12, not for his own self of fulfillment.
Signs from Elohim, signs and wonders.
A sign for healing: 2 Kings 20:8-11 Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord the third day?” Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?” So Hezekiah answered, “It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps.” Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’
A sign for good: Psalm 86:17 Show me a sign for good, that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed, because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.’
A sign for favor: Judges 6:17 ‘So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.’
A sign of doubt to test Yeshua:
Matthew 12:38 ‘Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
Matthew 16:1 ‘The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.’
Mark 8:11 ‘The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him.’
A sign for authority: John 2:18 ‘The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”
A sign for belief: John 6:30 ‘So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?’
In Matthew 12:39-40 Yeshua answers the Pharisees with the likeness of His resurrection to that of Jonah: ‘But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’
He repeats this exact same concept as He answers the Pharisees in Matthew 16:4.
The Apostles performed signs and wonders: Acts 5:12, Acts 6:8, Acts 8:6, Acts 14:3, Acts 15:12, Hebrews 2:4.
There will be signs to deceive: Matthew 24:23-28 ‘Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.’
When we seek signs because of our doubt, we live a life of faithlessness. James 1:6 ‘But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.’ Matthew 14:31 ‘Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Peter/Kefa in Acts 2:14-21 raised his voice amongst the doubters, quoted the prophet Joel and gave testimony to the signs and wonders performed by Yeshua, giving the glory to God. ‘Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God… Acts 2:22-23.
Everything must point to the glory of Elohim, even the signs and wonders.
Chayei Sarah / The Life of Sarah
1 Kings 1:1-31
1 Corinthians 15:50-57
This parsha opens with the death of Sarah. Which is an interesting point as it is called Chayei Sarah - the ‘life’ of Sarah. ‘Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.’ Genesis 23:1. Or maybe it's not so strange. Because in this parsha people react to Sarah's death, a testament to how much power the dead have in those living. They seem to miss her deeply, as we witness in Genesis 24:67 ‘Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.’ Sarah obviously had a profound impact on the people around her.
In the following chapters, Abraham speaks to the sons of Heth, requesting a place of burial. He asks for the cave of Machpelah at the full price. However, Ephron the Hittite responds by telling Abraham he will give him the field and the cave. Abraham again, requests that he purchase the cave instead of a gift, which the request is finalized, Genesis 23:5-19.
Why is this important? Because it represents ownership. This was the first parcel of land owned by the Hebrews in the Promised Land. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah and Leah are buried there. Interesting to note, that Ephron is spelled differently, without a ‘vav’ (“עֶפְרֹן is spelled without a “vav,” because he promised much but did not do even a little” Rashi’s commentary). Ephron’s name is intentionally misspelled.
Genesis 24 continues with a bride for Isaac. Genesis 24:1-3 has an interesting concept: ‘Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. (This statement relates to his son, Isaac most importantly) 2 So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth…’ Why under the thigh? Rashi’s comments: “Since one who swears must take with his hand an article related to a mitzvah such as a Torah scroll or Tefillin, and circumcision was his first mitzvah, and he had fulfilled it with pain, it was dear to him; so he took it.”
It’s interesting in Genesis 24:10 that the servant took ten of his master’s camels. The number 10 is an important number in Scriptures and in Hebrew. It is often said that the number ten is a symbol of perfection, harmony and creation.
God promised Abraham He would not destroy Sodom if 10 righteous men could be found there, Genesis 18:32. It also represents the Ten Utterances/Words found in Exodus 20. We see the ten elders of Israel in Ruth 4:2.
There are the 10 phrases of Genesis - the phrase “God said” appears 10 times in Genesis 1. We know of the 10 scattered tribes of Israel. There are the 10 horns with 10 crowns in Revelation 13:1. In Revelation 17:12 the 10 horns which now represent 10 kings. The 10 plagues of the Exodus, Exodus 7:14-12:30. There were ten generations that lived up to the flood, Noah was the 10th. There were 10 virgins, Matthew 25:1-13; there were 10 lepers; Luke 17:11-19, there were 10 talents; Matthew 25:14-30. In 2 Kings 20:8-11 God caused the shadow on a sundial to go backwards 10 degrees. In the Temple were 10 lavers, 10 lampstands, and 10 tables; 2 Chronicles 4:6-8.
On the 10th day of the first month, a lamb was to be chosen for Passover; Exodus 12:2-3. There were 10 servants given each 10 minas (amount of money) in Luke 19:12-13. There were exactly 10 “I AM’s” spoken by Yeshua in the book of John – “I am the bread of life, I am the bread of life which came down from heaven, I am the living bread, I am the light of the world, I am one that bears witness of Myself, I am the door of the sheep, I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, the truth and I am the true vine.”
Genesis 24:11 continues as the servant brings the camels to a well of water. The servant doesn’t pray for himself, but rather for his master Abraham, to show kindness to him. He asks for a sign, that the woman will not only serve him water, but also the camels. The end of this request is again for his master, ‘And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.’ Genesis 24:14. When the scene is finished, the servant bows his head and worships The LORD in Genesis 24:26-27- ’Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord. 27 And he said, “Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master.’
The servant had an opportunity to pray that he himself would find someone for Isaac. That would probably relieve great anxiety on his part. But he prayed that God show kindness to Abraham, to someone else. Proverbs 3:3-4 ‘Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart,
4 And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.’
This parsha closes with Abraham taking Ketura (Hagar) as his wife and having more children. Genesis 25:5-6 states that Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, but gave gifts to the sons of the concubines. The sages state that the Hebrew word for concubine is misspelled, missing the ‘yud’ thus denoting that it is singular, meaning just Hagar/Ketura and that Abraham did not have other concubines. Keturah, Abraham's "other wife" after Sarah, is referred to as a concubine in 1 Chronicles 1:32. We're not told of any other women who would have been considered Abraham's concubines.
Chayei Sarah closes with the death and burial of Abraham and the genealogy of Ishmael and Isaac.
Chayei Sarah/ Sarah’s Lifetime
This Torah portion teaches us about serving, being a bride and a well of living water. Chayei Sarah opens with the death of Sarah and Abraham buys a field and buries his beloved wife, ‘Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.’ Genesis 23:16. ‘Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.’ Genesis 23:19-20.
In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his senior servant, back to his land to get a wife for Isaac, ‘…but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.’ Genesis 24:4. The servant prayed to Elohim that there would be a sign given in regards to the wife that was to be for Isaac. The sign was serving him at the well.
Genesis 24:19-21 ‘After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels. 21 Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.’ Genesis 24:26-27 ‘Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, 27 saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.’
She was to be the bride, a serving bride to be found at a well of living water.
2 Corinthians 11:2 ‘For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Messiah.’
Ephesians 5:27 ‘that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.’
Revelation 19:7 ‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’
Deuteronomy 11:13 ‘So then, obey the commands that I have given you today; love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart.’
John 12:26 ‘Whoever wants to serve Me must follow Me, so that My servant will be with Me where I am. And my Father will honor anyone who serves Me.’
Psalm 119:10 ‘With all my heart I try to serve you; keep me from disobeying Your commandments.’
1 Samuel 12:24 ‘Obey the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. Remember the great things He has done for you.’
1 Timothy 1:12 ‘I give thanks to Yeshua HaMashiach, who has given me strength for my work. I thank Him for considering me worthy and appointing me to serve Him.’
Psalm 113:1 ‘Praise the Lord! You servants of the Lord, praise His name!’
John 4:14 ‘…but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
John 7:38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'
Baruch HaShem ~ Rabbi Jay Howard